Carl Lewis quit the race for NJ state Senate on Friday and said he hoped his campaign bid would inspire more residents to consider turning out to vote in the November 8 general election.
Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis gave up on his race for New Jersey state Senate on Friday.
The move came one day after a federal appeals panel removed him from the ballot because he didn't meet a four-year residency requirement.
Lewis had to decide quickly whether to drop out or press on with a court battle. Thursday's ruling came with less than seven weeks before the Nov. 8 election and just as ballots are to be printed and sent out, first to voters overseas, then to others.
Lewis said he would still be involved in Democratic campaigns and charity work -- and encouraging people to vote.
“Service does not need a title,” Lewis said Friday.
His withdrawal caps a week of suspense in his stop-and-go challenge to Republican incumbent Dawn Addiego for a seat representing the heavily Republican 8th Legislative District in Burlington County.
The Democrat's campaign, begun in April, has been heavy on legal proceedings and light on political debate -- though Lewis did knock on plenty of voters' doors.
Lewis, 50, grew up in southern New Jersey but settled in California. He bought homes in New Jersey in 2005 and 2007 and became a volunteer track coach at his alma mater, Willingboro High School, in 2007. But he continued to vote in California until 2009 and didn't register to vote in New Jersey until he started his campaign.
Lewis's lawyer argued in court after court that Lewis is a known figure and not a carpetbagger --so there was no reason to bar him from running.
He persuaded the 3rd Circuit panel to keep Lewis on the ballot for the June primary, but it didn't work to keep him there for the general election.
At a conference Friday, Lewis focused on what he's accomplished in life and said he wasn't angry about the court ruling.
“They made their choice, we move on, that's where I am,” Lewis said.
Unless there's a change quickly, the 8th District ballots will be printed without a Democratic candidate.
Joe Andl, the chairman of the Burlington County Democratic Committee, said he expects to determine by the end of the weekend whether the party will try to replace Lewis on the ballot.
Jacqueline Jennings, the vice-chairwoman of the group, said it would have been inappropriate to line up a backup candidate in case Lewis was ousted.
“It's the people of New Jersey who lost,” Jennings said. “Not Carl Lewis.”